Mercenaries haven’t really been a staple of mainstream thrillers since the ’80s.  Tom Clancy introduced Jack Ryan, an analyst, as the hero of his techno-thrillers, and it seemed to set the tone for much of the genre to come.  Harold Coyle’s heroes were mostly tankers.  Dale Brown’s were bomber pilots.  As the GWOT got started, even the more shadowy operatives, like Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp and Brad Taylor’s Pike Logan were still directly operating within the government apparatus, if so black that they “didn’t exist.”

So, why did I go with mercenaries for the Praetorian series, Kill Yuan, and the Brannigan’s Blackhearts series?  Well, I think that has several answers.

The most immediate one is flexibility.  Anyone who’s done time in the military knows that your every move is closely scrutinized when in combat, and it’s just gotten worse with the advance of technology.  You don’t get to pick your targets, and when you find actionable intel, it has to go up the chain for a decision, then back down to you, by which time the target might not be there anymore (true story).  You could even know that that guy’s a bad guy, be poised and ready to move on him, and get told, “No.”

For the sake of authenticity, if my characters were still in the military, they’d have to abide by the rules, regulations, and ROE.  Doable, but when you want to tell fast-paced adventure stories, it’s a restriction that can interfere with the story, and turn it from semi-plausible to, “There is no way in hell that would ever happen.”  Having mercenaries as main characters gives the writer elbow-room, so to speak.

The other reason, I think, ties into the above, as well as the reason that mercs featured so heavily in ’70s and ’80s Action Adventure fiction.  I think a lot of us GWOT vets got frustrated in much the same way many Vietnam vets did.  Afghanistan is a never-ending quagmire where much of the time our guys have to stand by and watch either the Taliban retake the southern part of the country, or simply accept that their “allies” often are corrupt as hell, not to mention pederasts and sexual predators.  Iraq is a fractured mess, largely dominated by the same Iranian government that was shipping EFPs across the border to kill Americans during the height of the war.  It’s hard not to look at the GWOT as similarly mismanaged and abandoned as Vietnam was.

There were quite a few Vietnam vets who headed to Africa (most notably Rhodesia), to fight Communists in the ’70s and ’80s.  Others, who didn’t go that far, vented their frustration by telling stories.  Don Pendleton wasn’t a ‘Nam vet (WWII and Korea), but he started The Executioner series as a reaction to what had happened during and after Vietnam.  Others joined in.  I think we’re seeing more of the same now, with my own series, Jack Murphy’s Deckard series, Jack Silkstone’s PRIMAL series, the Black Powder-Red Earth graphic novel series, etc.  We got tired of the BS in the mil, though we still might want a piece of the action.  Which is why I often term my stuff, “Shooter Wish Fulfillment.”


Why I Write Mercs

Peter Nealen

Peter Nealen is a former Reconnaissance Marine and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He deployed to Iraq in 2005-2006, and again in 2007, with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Recon Bn. After two years of schools and workups, including Scout/Sniper Basic and Team Leader's Courses, he deployed to Afghanistan with 4th Platoon, Force Reconnaissance Company, I MEF. Works by Peter include: The American Praetorians Series Task Force Desperate (October 2012) - ebook , paperback and audiobook Hunting in the Shadows (June 2013) - ebook and paperback Alone and Unafraid (August 2014) - ebook and paperback The Devil You Don't Know (June 2015) - ebook and paperback Lex Talionis (June 2017) - ebook and paperback The Jed Horn Series A Silver Cross and a Winchester (October 2013) - ebook and paperback Nightmares (January 2015)- ebook and paperback The Walker on the Hills (December 2015) - ebook and paperback Older and Fouler Things (September 2017) - ebook and paperback The Brannigan's Blackhearts Series/Universe Kill Yuan (Spring 2016) - ebook and paperback Fury in the Gulf (November 2017) - ebook and paperback Burmese Crossfire (January 2018) - ebook and paperback Enemy Unidentified (March 2018) - ebook and paperback Frozen Conflict (May 2018) - ebook and paperback High Desert Vengeance (August 2018) - ebook and paperback Doctors of Death (December 2018) - ebook and paperback The Unity Wars Series (P.L. Nealen) The Fall of Valdek (July 2018) - ebook and paperback The Defense of Provenia (August 2018) - ebook and paperback The Alliance Rises (September 2018) - ebook and paperback Short Stories Rock Meet Hard Place (Part I) - Baen Books Blog Non-Fiction Operation Redwings: The Rescue Story Behind Lone Survivor (December 2013) - ebook only The ISIS Solution: How Unconventional Thinking and Special Operations Can Eliminate Radical Islam (SOFREP) (November 2014) - ebook only

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